EOTS’ college tipoff NBA Draft Big Board, Part II: Potential No. 1 picks
It’s never too early to start talking 2018 NBA Draft with the direction the Phoenix Suns’ season is heading.
Empire of the Suns is rolling out its first edition of a big board with the top-10 players as college basketball gets underway. You’ll find brief scouting reports on each player followed by how they could fit in Phoenix.
Throughout the season leading all the way up to June, we will bring new versions of the board and plenty of NBA Draft coverage along the way.
In part two, we look at a darkhorse to be selected in the top-5 and the two most highly rated high school recruits, both of whom start our top-5 that could have anyone go No. 1 overall.
6. Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State (18 years old)
Jackson is a prospect that requires some optimism about his development, and that’s all I’ve got for him.
He profiles as a player building off his activity level as a shot-blocker, rebounder and rim-runner. He should benefit from growing into his body as one of the youngest players in the class.
Jackson is long and active defensively. He’s 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, giving him the range as a shot-challenger, and he possesses the motor and quickness to hang on switches.
When ranking the top-5 traits among all players in this year’s draft, Jackson’s timing and anticipation as a shot-blocker is up there. He’s outstanding when it comes to not only the traditional rejections but even picking the right moment to swipe in to connect with the ball when most would foul.
The untapped potential comes on offense. His unorthodox release on his jumper with no spin goes in, and he has the ability to dribble and shift directions while making the right pass. With that being said, you can’t hand him the ball to get you a bucket and relying on his jump-shot would be a mistake given its current form.
He showed most of the appeal in a game against Duke (you can see the highlights from above). He was the best prospect on the floor that night, even in the early minutes against Marvin Bagley III.
Fit in Phoenix: Can the Suns afford to take another big man who will require patience like Jackson? His skill-set is similar to Bender’s in that you know he is going to be good defensively, but the offense needs time and development in order to be fully fleshed out. The likely answer there, for the time being, is no.
5. Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke (18 years old)
The local product will likely be the most up-and-down prospect for the entire process of mock draft making. Some are calling him the surefire No. 1 pick and he’s just cracking the top-10 for others.
No matter what you think of him, no one can deny Bagley is one of the best overall athletes. Against weaker competition at the start of the season, Bagley was rebounding at points by jumping over a box-out, reaching over the player and tipping the ball back to himself.
He’s got terrific touch around the rim, where his offense is at its best.
The sky is the limit for him everywhere else, but whoever drafts him is betting on more than what he’s currently capable of consistently producing.
Knocking down threes, advanced ball-handling, doing well on perimeter defense and creating his own offense is all something he can show a flash of.
When you take his current skills and size and line it all up, where does he play? As a power forward, he needs to show the range on his jumper or overall perimeter skills to be considered unique in today’s game. As a center, he’s undersized at 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot wingspan and he’s not strong enough to be a primary rebounder or rim protector.
He needs to develop more than any of the prospects in the lottery, and he easily can, which is why the excitement around him exists.
Fit in Phoenix: Even if the Suns are “done” with Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, can they afford to take another project? That’s what Bagley is in more areas than one, and he would be in-between two positions like those two. There’s no reason for Phoenix to select Bagley unless they are absolutely ready to move on from the top-10 picks and believe he can positively contribute now while the rest of his game grows.
4. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri (19 years old)
The way I’ve seen Porter described, he is what you want your modern NBA power forward to do. The problem for myself, personally, is seeing the chinks in the armor at this stage.
Porter has the size, length and athleticism of that label. He moves even better than that, possessing some of the fluidity as a scorer you talk about when watching the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Jabari Parker and Kevin Durant. That’s partnered with the best jumper of the lottery, one that he gets off with a great rise and tough-to-contest release.
The concern is how he puts it all together.
Porter shows an average feel for scoring at this stage because of his below-average handle and passing ability. That’s worrisome as a go-to scorer.
Another red flag goes up in watching his physicality. You watch Porter and see more opportunities for him if he were to bang bodies, but he comes off as soft. For a player so young, maybe all he needs is more strength to get this done. He requires that in his game to be a true stretch four on both ends.
Defensively, he’s better. He can switch and move and, oddly enough, might see the floor best enough as a weak-side rim protector. Some prospects of his outline are disasters on this end and that makes their ceiling-floor evaluation dangerous, but he’s not that.
Fit in Phoenix: Scott Bordow of AZCentral said it best to me when it comes to the next top draft pick arriving in the Valley: “The Suns need a basketball player.” That’s Porter, and why he makes things complicated considering Phoenix.
At the least, he’s a secondary or third offensive option and average shooter. At his best or somewhere in-between, though, and he can put together a worthwhile package of scoring, shooting and defense, consistently making plays all over the floor that only a handful are capable of.
The Suns already has Bender and Chriss, but they are still putting their games together. Porter can come in right away and give Phoenix an offensive punch at power forward. It would require more roster movement, though, whether that’s Chriss and Bender moving positions or one of them being traded, and that’s tricky.